This is the story of a very small music festival undergroung which has paved the way for an anthology of festivals in the regions with the mission of promoting the music of local artists whose hits do not necessarily play in a loop on the commercial airwaves.
Twenty years after its founding, the Abitibi-Témiscamingue (FME) Emerging Music Festival is nothing short of iconic. And makes the city of Rouyn-Noranda vibrate until Sunday evening.
More than 90 artists (mainly from Quebec, but also from elsewhere) take over streets, bars, theaters and various unusual places, to the delight of more than 30,000 festival-goers.
Rouynorandiens, music lovers from all over the province and industry professionals (including a strong French delegation in search of pearls to integrate into festivals across the Atlantic) are converging on this party igniting the municipality of 43,000 souls.
Let’s immediately settle the case of the famous term “emerging”, which has the trick of confusing some of them, the Julie Doiron, Hay Babies, Gros Mené and other artists who are no longer sharpening their first concerts appearing on the program. Twenty years after having arisen from the head of Sandy Boutin to describe the sound of the festival, this word rakes much wider than its first meaning.
Asteure is perhaps the things that stand out for their particularities and that will pleasantly surprise you. There are established artists who will remain emerging all their life because they have their own approach or who do not meet certain criteria.
Karine Berthiaume, co-founder and artistic director of the FME
“I think we’re all a bit ’emerging’ in Abitibi! “, she adds laughing in an interview under a dazzling sun.
Three friends and a crazy idea
Beginning of the 2000s. The musical offer in the region leaves three young twenty-somethings, Karine Berthiaume, Jenny Thibault and Sandy Boutin, unsatisfied, who satisfy their passion for concerts in Montreal (about seven hours by road from Rouyn, must -we underline).
One day, Sandy simply pitched to her friends the idea of putting on their own music show… emerging! And Jenny (now in charge of communications and marketing) and Karine, then freshly graduated in graphic design, came on board, the latter proposing to design “the logo and the decoration”.
At the end of June, the founding trio received their funding, and at the beginning of September, they inaugurated the FME. “We mobilized people and brought them into our madness,” says the artistic director, who now sees to all of the visual aspects of the festival.
It’s hard to conceive these days, but regional music festivals weren’t swarming 20 years ago. The Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée and the Festival de la chanson de Tadoussac (which responded to the disco hegemony of the 80s) had been in the saddle since this decade. However, in Montreal, a more marginal events scene was emerging, Bande à part (defunct alternative music site of Radio-Canada), the electronic festival MUTEK and Pop Montreal having been born during the previous two years.
Today, the Festif de Baie-Saint-Paul, La Noce au Saguenay, the Santa Teresa in Sainte-Thérèse as well as the Festival de la poutine in Drummondville (where music takes up as much space as said comforting dish) constitute so many prized descendants of the FME having emerged outside the major centres. And Karine is delighted that the latter has inspired others.
“The city is FME”
It is impossible to talk about the FME without mentioning the vital involvement of the population. “It belongs to everyone, this festival. It is the entire population that embarks on the patent,” says Karine.
“It stamps smiles on our faces, and everyone lives in tune because we receive lots of visitors. Everyone is in a good mood, it creates a warm atmosphere. And I think we stayed real. We never wanted to distort the patent. »
“It’s effervescent, as if the city was celebrating,” confirms Francine, a resident met in a café. “Shops and restaurants are full. It’s the fun. We are really happy. »
“I quite like that! adds Maryse, who lives two blocks from the heart of the FME. “There are people from everywhere, they are everywhere on the terraces. And it is a peaceful festival. In addition, when we live nearby, we enjoy the music. »
Both underline the cultural vitality of Rouyn-Noranda, citing the International Film Festival and the World Guitar Festival.
We were three friends who broke up cartoon, but to achieve something of this magnitude, it takes a lot of passionate people who give their time, energy and arm juice. It is ultimately a collective, community project.
Karine Berthiaume, co-founder and artistic director of the FME
According to the director general of the FME, Magalie Monderie-Larouche, “a common DNA” binds the population. “Everyone is waiting for the FME. We meet there. And there are local initiatives with merchants: some make donuts, unicorn-shaped chocolate [inspirée de l’œuvre Monter une licorne de Marc Séguin, créée expressément pour les 20 ans du festival], which play the FME radio. The whole city is FME! »
Originally modest with its twenty concerts, the Festival of Emerging Music has reached full maturity, saturating the tourist capacity of the region.
During the first 10 years, the number of festival-goers climbed to 25,000, 30,000, a number that has remained between 30,000 and 37,000 for the last decade, indicates Magalie, who wishes to preserve “the hype around the FME, a challenge in itself because the FME has a lot of children across Quebec”.
And what does Karine Berthiaume wish for the future of the festival in perfect health?
“Let us keep the basic creative energy that puts a smile on our face, let it last. The physical form may change, the art direction will change next year, but that’s ok, it’s transforming. But the people who come to work here, the festival-goers and the artists must still feel this affair which is not controllable, not taxable, the magic which floats. It has to stay between the structures and the humans. It’s here vibes that I wish for the FME for the rest of its life. »
Because this intangible magic is also what distinguishes the FME.
Karine Berthiaume will exhibit in Montreal
Karine Berthiaume, who is also a multidisciplinary artist, will exhibit her paintings in Montreal in the Belgo building, rue Sainte-Catherine, from September 12 to 19, as part of an ephemeral gallery alongside another artist from the region, Martin Beautiful eyes.